Common-sense standards easily met with current technology
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Dovetailing with the upcoming new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the EPA this week issues sweeping new rules that could help cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA proposed setting standards that would cap carbon pollution from new gas and coal-fired plants. At the same time, the agency is seeking stakeholder input to set carbon pollution standards for existing plants.
The new rules would mark a significant step toward achieving goals set out by President Obama in tackling global warming and moving toward a low-carbon economy, as called for by international scientists preparing to release an updated climate change assessment warning that humans are on the verge of raising global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius in the next few decades, with potentially catastrophic effects.
“Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. By taking common sense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said. “These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy.”
Under today’s proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.
These proposed standards will ensure that new power plants are built with available clean technology to limit carbon pollution, a requirement that is in line with investments in clean energy technologies that are already being made in the power industry. Additionally, these standards provide flexibility by allowing sources to phase in the use of some of these technologies, and they ensure that the power plants of the future use cleaner energy technologies — such as efficient natural gas, advanced coal technology, nuclear power, and renewable energy like wind and solar.
Power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution. In addition, more than 25 states have set energy efficiency targets, and more than 35 have set renewable energy targets. While the United States has limits in place for arsenic, mercury and lead pollution that power plants can emit, currently, there are no national limits on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit.
In 2009, EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. Taking steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution from new and existing power plants will protect children’s health and will move us toward a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations, while supplying the reliable, affordable power needed for economic growth.
The agency is seeking comment and information on today’s proposal, including holding a public hearing, and will take that input fully into account as it completes the rulemaking process. EPA’s comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. In a separate action, EPA is rescinding the April 2012 proposal